(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Kathryn Hawkins on April 28, 2010. This article also contains excerpts from the article written by Marina Khidekel and published in Parents Magazine on May 2010.)
About Jaci and Eric Hasemeyer:
In 1996, Jaci and Eric Hasemeyer already had three children, and had believed their family was complete. But when Jaci, a P.E. teacher at a Riverside, California elementary school, handed out coupons for a local skating rink one day, the response she received from a 5th grade boy made her think twice.
The boy, who was a foster child living in a group house, told Jaci that he didn’t need the coupon because he didn’t have anyone to take him skating.
“My heart just broke,” Jaci told Parents Magazine. “I couldn’t stop thinking that we had to do something to help kids like him.”
So Jaci and her family began to look into options, and discovered that there were hundreds of local children in need of a supportive family home. They applied to become a foster family, and in the years since, they’ve opened their home to more than 30 foster children—and have adopted nine of them.
“Our philosophy has always been that if a child is not returned to her parents or relatives or moved elsewhere by the court, then our home would be their final stop, their ‘forever home,’” said Jaci.
But the drive to provide a home to children in need didn’t stop in the Hasemeyer household. When the family’s friends and neighbors became aware of what the Hasemeyers were doing, they, too, were inspired to foster and adopt. Now, 20 families in the Hasemeyers’ neighborhood have adopted 50 children.
The Hasemeyers are committed to helping other families learn about fostering and adoption possibilities, and have dedicated their lives to the movement. Several years ago, Eric quit his job as a stockbroker and went back to school for a master’s in counseling. He now runs a center that serves as an adoption resource for both prospective parents and women who must give up their children.
And in 2006, the Hasemeyers’ oldest daughter, Krista, organized the Walk Your Talk Walk, a fundraising event to raise awareness of foster children. In the first year, the walk raised $1,500, but last year, it collected more than $30,000, and churches throughout Southern California modeled their own fundraisers after the event.
Now that the Hasemeyers have 12 children, it’s a pretty full house. But even though they’re not planning on any more adoptions, they are passionate about helping other families connect with children who need homes.
“Each evening when we look around the dinner table, we come face-to-face with the good that comes of adoption,” Jaci said. “Our kids have added so much to our family, and the simplest message is that everyone can make a difference in the life of a child.”
Riversiders commitment to making one-other’s life a little better is a great example of Riverside acting as a unified city. The actions of Jaci and Eric Hasemeyer demonstrate that Riverside is a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.